Posted by: atowhee | October 9, 2015


There’s new information and thus new theories on birds, how they evolved and how different groups are related.  The same meteor that apparently marked the end of the mega-faunal dinosaurs gave rise to us mammals and to our avian neighbors. Here’s summary of latest evolutionary theory on the avian family tree.

Posted by: atowhee | October 8, 2015


UPDATE:  Friday, Oct. 9–They’re baaaack.  Waxwings galore again this foggy morning (the first such this fall) with more rain expected.  By 9A< they were in the trees and flycatching overhead.  Another PIMBY victory.

There are few more gregarious songbirds in North America in my experience.  Our waxwings rank up there with most finches, Iterids, Bushtits, chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets and Pinyon Jays.  The introduced Starling is likely the one most often seen in flocks of over a thousand birds, however.  Gone are the sky-darkening clouds of Carolina Parakeets or Passenger Pigeons once seen over the eastern American forests.

Thursday, Oct. 8, McMinnville–After breeding season Cedar Waxwings are notorious wanderers.  Today it was PIMBY time at my house.  We Americans are all familiar with the political and social stance of “NIMBY,” not in my back yard.  Well, today it was PIMBY–please, in my back yard.  And the waxwings obliged.  Well over a hundred into our garden and those around us.  They especially pleased with my neigbbor’s dogwood.WW CLUSTR (1280x960) WW DOGWD1 (1280x960) WW DOGWD2 (1280x960) WW DOGWD3 (1280x960) WW IN AIR (1280x960)

Posted by: atowhee | October 6, 2015


I was showing a visiting in-law couple around some of our local wineries today…and Saffron Field northeast of Yamhill town had more than the juice and the artworks.  A flock of Western Bluebirds in their elegant Japanese garden:  SAFFRON B-BRD (1280x960) SAFFRON B-BRD2 (1280x960)Here’s a bit of fall color. COLORZ (1280x960)This Song Sparrow as hopping around the edge of the pond in the garden, being coy around the koi, large enough to swallow him in a single gulp.SOSP (1280x960)P2540256 (1280x960)

Saffron Fields Winery, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 6, 2015 12:30 PM.  9 species

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana)  30–this is Yamhill County lifer #102 for me, a resident here of less than 90 days.  When I moved here I had exactly zero birds in the county.  Now that we’ve been feeding for several weeks we get a nice garden variety.  See below.
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  15
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  2
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  6
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  2

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 6, 2015 7:30 AM.  15 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  X
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)  X
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  1
Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  X
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)  X
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | October 3, 2015


I have been expecting today’s garden visitor.  There were clear marks of previ0us visits, those parallel lines of round drill holes.  They are often called “sapuscker wells.”  But after 75 days in this house, today was the first time my wife and I actually saw a Red-breasted Sapsucker working on one of our dawn redwoods.  Unlike their California cousins, these trees are native to China and have both thin bark and are deciduous.rbs-grdn1In these pictures you can see the drill holes. rbs-grdn2 rbs-grdn3 rbs-grdn4

Posted by: atowhee | October 1, 2015


For weeks here in Yamhill County I’ve seen few finches, and those have mostly been American Gold.  Now there are finches everywhere I turn…especially in our garden and on our bird baths and feeders.  Behold the  purple:PUFI BK (1280x960)PUFI SEED (1280x960)This one shows bird about to swallow a husked sunflower seed, husking having been done by finch beak and tongue: pufi seedz PUFI GRP (1280x960)And here are the cousins together–purple with American Gold:AMGO SINGL (1280x960) FINCH X 2 (1280x960) FINCH X2A (1280x960)The guy in the back is lookin’ a little seedy, I must say.  Sunflower seedy, to be precise. PUFI PAIR2 (1280x960)Renoir would have wanted to paint this bathing scene:  PUFI WET (1280x960) PUFI WET1 (1280x960) PUFI WET2 (1280x960)


This tragic House Finch was near a local winery, by itself and looking very bad indeed.sic hofi (1280x960) sic hofi2 (1280x960)I have no medical training so do not know if this is the widespread conjunctivitis or avian pox.  Click here for the Cornell website on both. At this time the bird has only one infected, affected eye.

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Oct 1, 2015 8:00 AM.  13 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X

Flicker  1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)  1
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  8
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  30
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  1
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)  8
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  4
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | September 29, 2015


A visiting friend needed to so do some serious wine-tasting but we had to fill time before 11am when the tasting rooms opened…so birding!

Highlights: Snow Goose at Baskett Slough, my first Yamhill County Golden-crowneds and a Lincoln’s Sparrow along Rice Lane in Amity, both yellowlegs species feeding together with a lone LB Dowitcher and a slew (not slough) of Hooded Mergansers in irrigation pond at Left Coast Winery.   Then, finally waxwings harvesting pinot noir grapes at Maysara Winery.

The Show Goose was in large pond downhill from the elbow in road where sign says “foot traffic only”, this trial is just south of the parking lot with toilet building where you can hike the memorial trail for the biologist who was murdered by terrorists on 9-11. EBird seemed to think this is a rare bird for Baskett Slough and demanded an explanation.SNPOG CU (1280x960)Here is the Snow surrounded by Greater White-fronts.SNOGO2 (1280x960)Note Cackling Goose with yellow neck band…and one nearby with natural white collar.

CACK COLLRD (1280x960) CACK RINGD (1280x960) GEESE AIRD (1280x960) GEESE GRND (1280x960)Cacklers above, White-fronts snoozing. GOOSE LOAF (1280x960)Lesser Yellowlegs, Left Coast Winery pond. LES YEL (1280x960) LES YEL2 (1280x960)

Rice Ln., Yamhill, Oregon, US
Sep 29, 2015 9:45 AM – 10:05 AM.  10 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  4
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  2
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  2
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)  15
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1

Baskett Slough NWR, Polk, Oregon, US
Sep 29, 2015 10:15 AM – 11:00 AM.  21 species

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)  50
Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens)  1     I have photo of it with White-fronted Geese
Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  400
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  40
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  30
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  2
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  4
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  3
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  2
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  2
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  2
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)  1
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)  1
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  50
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  2

Posted by: atowhee | September 28, 2015


Steve Jobs had no idea he was encouraging inter-species relations. Check this out.

Posted by: atowhee | September 27, 2015


Two new birds for me in Yamhill County, both fall arrivals: Varied Thrush and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.  Must have been a fresh shipment of the kinglets with the sharp cold snap overnight: three in one small area, two sharing a tree which they will not do during the winter.  One time there was a soft, thin, haunting whistle of a Varied Thrush from some dense undergrowth in some undeterminable direction in the woods.  The kinglets, Bushtits, chickadees all focusedon feeding aftrer a cold night.  Each bird sought the sun-warmed side of the foliage in late morning.rcki belly (1280x960) rcki cntr (1280x960) rcki flttr (1280x960) rcki look sup (1280x960) rcki look sup2 (1280x960) rcki lookaround (1280x960) rcki upside (1280x960)fawl3 (960x1280)fawl1 (1280x960) fawl2 (1280x960)

McMinnville Rotary Park (Tice Park), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Sep 27, 2015 10:30 AM – 11:10 AM.  10 species

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  5
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  2
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  2
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)  25
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  3     first of the season
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  3
Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)  2     first of the season
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  3

Posted by: atowhee | September 25, 2015


Paul Sullivan and I spent a busy two hours at Sheridan Sewer Ponds this morning.  There must have been 2000 waterbirds on the ponds.  The riparian corridor, full of yellowish-tinted ash trees on the western edge of the pond property was also alive with birds.  And the sky was twice hit by a tsunami of hungry, migrating swallows.

We totaled ten waterfowl species including Cackling Geese and my first Ring-ducked Ducks in the county.  Highlight for me was Paul calling out pipit heard overhead and within a few seconds the two birds chased one another out of the sky and landed on the dike-topping road in front of us.   Just as we had unconsciously requested.

Among the migrants present were both Yellow and Yellow-rumped Warblers, aforementioned pipits, Eared Grebe, Western Sandpiper and two species of swallow.

The rain stopped as we arrived, conveniently enough.  But the photos were all taken through the gray scrim of a very wet, poorly lighted atmosphere.  erd grb (1280x960)Eared Grebe above, Wood Ducks below with males already in breeding plumage.  The Mallards, Ruddy Ducks, Pintails and Shovelers are all in their drab outfits right now. W-D1 (1280x960) W-D2 (1280x960)The bold feathers of the Wood Ducks mean they are fully able to fly.  When they molt in late summer both sexes lose the ability to fly temporarily until their wing feathers grow back.  Not many birds take the evolutionary risk of losing the ability to fly. W-D3 (1280x960)Here are three grebes topped by two swallows, which is what we often saw on and above the ponds.  Why? Swarms of  swallows. grbs3-swlo (1280x960)After a cold, rainy night the swallows were hungry, feeding over the ponds and then apparently stopping on the exposed dark gravel to warm up using a little solar energy. SWLO FLTR (1280x960) SWLO FLTR2 (1280x960) swlo fltr4 (1280x960) swlo fltr7 (1280x960) swlo fltr8 (1280x960) swlo rod (1280x960)Thge swallow swarms seemed to be composed of only two species: Barn and Violet-green. swlo rox quiet (1280x960) swlo rox swrm (1280x960)When not disturbed by something real or imaginery, whole seconds would tick past with no swallow taking off or landing. swlo rox1 (1280x960) swlo rox2 (1280x960) swlo rox-gud (1280x960)Flicker:NOFL (1280x960)Shoveler, the most abundant bird there today, in small coterie around bubbler which seemed to be delivering the good stuff these dabblers desire.  I tried not to imagine what they were eating. SHOV BUBBLE (1280x960)Waxwings in the alders, including many first-fall birds, still streaky on the chest WAX ARISE (1280x960) WAX BAX (1280x960) WAX FLIZ (1280x960) WAX FRNT (1280x960) WAX FRNT3 (1280x960)Wilson’s Snipe, same bird in two locations on the water’s edge.snipe on rox (1280x960) snipe over-bst (1280x960)

Sheridan WTP Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Sep 25, 2015 9:30 AM – 11:30 AM.  32 species

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)  2
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  2
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  20     not unusual at this location I’m told
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  40
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  1000
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)  4
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  10
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  5
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  1
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)  25
Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)  20     on migration
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
American Coot (Fulica americana)  200
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  6
Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)  1
Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata)  1
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  4
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  300
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  150
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)  2
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  100
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  4
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  15

Spotted Towhee  1
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  2
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  30

Posted by: atowhee | September 23, 2015


We humans trash the rivers, dam them and then blame the cormorants for not enough salmon. Ever feel like disowning your own species?

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